Storytime for Grownups : A Guide to “Rediscovering America”


July 4th is, aside from Thanksgiving, the true American holiday. It isn’t only a day to gaze up at magnificent fireworks (although they are pretty cool!) It is a day to reflect on the long battle for independence from Great Britain, and also to contemplate what it is to be an American.

The list below, compiled by Adam S. Davis, the Manager, Main Library and Outreach Services at the Palm Beach County Library System, gives you a few ideas of what the next book on your summer reading list should be.


  1. “I am America: and so can you!” / written and edited by Stephen Colbert … [et al.] : If you miss the television show, “The Colbert Report,” this book will bring you back. Need I say more
  2. Any book by Sarah Vowell (“The Partly Cloudy Patriot”, “Unfamiliar Fishes” “Assassination Vacation” “The Wordy Shipmates”) : You may be familiar with Sarah Vowell’s work on the radio show, “This American Life.” Her books will bring you on a quirky tour of the United States throughout its history, from the Puritans in New England to the history and annexation of Hawaii. Vowell makes U.S. history laugh-out-loud hilarious.
  3. “Travels with Charley: in search of America” by John Steinbeck : Steinbeck and his French poodle, Charley, travel in his truck trailer through 40 states starting in 1960, eight years before his death. Readers will fall in love with the United States all over again as he explores American identity, and at the same time be horrified at the racism that that Steinbeck witnessed during this time period. Although one of Steinbeck’s lesser known works, July 4th is a great time to pick up this masterpiece!
  4. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough : Pullitzer prize-winning historian, David McCullough, returns to one of the most pivotal moments in not only American history, but world history, as he explores the Wright Brothers the fathers of flight. This is an intimate biography (and hefty!), but reads like a novel. Hot off the presses!
  5. 1776 by David McCullough : What would the fourth of July be without delving deep into the War for Independence? “1776” does just that in the same beautiful prose full of excitement and drama that McCullough brings to all of his books. Meticulously researched, this is a true biography of a nation if there ever was one.
  6. “Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: the Real West” by David Fisher : Ever want to know what really happened in the “Old West”? It’s not what you’ve seen on television. This brand new book is fast-paced, thrilling, and brings the Western frontier to life.
  7. America (the book) : a citizen’s guide to democracy inaction by Jon Stewart : In the same way that “The Daily Show” brought irreverent wit to the nightly news on a daily basis, “America (the book)” will make you laugh your head off and learn something about modern American political culture. Though over ten years old, this book never gets old.
  8. “Strange fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated narratives from Black history” written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill : This is a fascinating book, published in 2014, which brings together the beauty of the graphic novel with the early history of African Americans many of whom you may never have heard of. Adults and teenagers alike will learn about extraordinary individuals who, in spite of or because of, the adversity they faced, made significant contributions what the United States is today.
  9. “A walk across America” by Peter Jenkins : I grew up with Peter Jenkins’ daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, and still have my 7th grade copy of his book, “A walk across America.” Written in the 1970s during political and social upheaval, this coming-of-age account of a man, his dog, and the people he encounters on his almost 5,000-mile journey will keep you glued to your armchair from cover to cover.


These books, and others like them, are available now at many of the branches of the Palm Beach County Library System, or your local library. Tune in next month for more ideas about what those in the know are reading this year!